Palmdale resident Rachel Garcia, three teammates from Orange County and the rest of the U.S. Olympic softball team will play for a gold medal Tuesday against Japan in a matchup of the world’s top two teams.
The U.S. will bat as the home team thanks to Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Japan that gave it the best record in opening-round play, 5-0. Two of the Americans’ opening-round victories were walk-off victories, including the victory over Japan. Japan (4-1) also had two walk-off victories.
The U.S. is in the gold medal game thanks to its pitching. The two runs it allowed were both unearned, with one coming as the result of the international tiebreaker, where each half-inning in extra innings begins with a runner on second base.
Despite the tournament’s second-best batting average, .231, the U.S. has had trouble scoring, with nine runs in its five victories, fourth in the six-team tournament.
The U.S. and Japan also met in the gold-medal game in 2008, the most recent time softball was played in the Olympics before the Tokyo Games. Japan was a 3-1 winner, with Cat Osterman the losing pitcher.
Osterman is among two players from the 2008 U.S. team who are also members of the team for the Tokyo Games, along with fellow pitcher Monica Abbott.
Japan’s 15-player roster includes three members of the 2008 team — catcher Yukiyo Mine, pitcher Yukiko Ueno and outfielder Eri Yamada.
The U.S. is ranked first by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, both sports’ international governing body, and Japan second.
Tuesday’s game from Yokohama Baseball Stadium will be televised live by cable’s NBC Sports Network beginning at 4 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
Garcia’s lone Olympic appearances have been as a pinch-hitter, going hitless in two at-bats. The pitcher-first baseman completed her UCLA career in 2021 by being receiving the Honda Cup as the collegiate woman athlete of the year for the second time and the Honda Sports Award winner for softball for the third time.
Janie Reed has started all five games in left field, going 2-for-13 for a .154 batting average. The 2011 graduate of El Dorado High School in Placentia drove in Aubree Munro with a sacrifice fly for the second run in the tournament-opening 2-0 victory over Italy last Tuesday California time.
Reed was a three-time All-Pac-12 selection at Oregon, and was also a member of the national teams that won the Women’s Softball World Cup in 2016 and 2018 and Pan American Games gold medal in 2019.
Reed’s husband Jake made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers July 6, was designated for assignment July 21 after making six appearances, including one start, with a 3.38 ERA and no record. He was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday and assigned to the Durham, North Carolina Triple-A affiliate.
Munro has been the starting catcher all five games, going 1-for-9 for a .111 batting average. The 2012 graduate of Brea Olinda High School helped lead Florida to 2014 and 2015 NCAA championships.
Munro has been a member of the U.S. national team since 2016, and was a member of its teams that won the Women’s Softball World Cup in 2016 and 2018 and Pan American Games gold medal in 2019.
Dejah Mulipola started at catcher in the 2-0 victory over Mexico Friday night, going 1-for-2 and scoring a run in her lone Olympic appearance. Mulipola helped lead Pacifica High School in Garden Grove to the 2014 Southern Section Division 1 championship and was the first-team All-Pac-12 catcher as an Arizona senior in 2021.
There are three other UCLA alumni on the team — pitcher Ally Carda, utility player Bubba Nickles and infielder Delaney Spaulding.
Softball is not on the program for the 2024 Paris Olympics but is expected to be for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.